Social Impact

How businesses can respond to disasters

Provide rapid relief to communities affected by natural and manmade disasters

Natural disasters are both common and increasing in frequency. There are around 6,800 natural disasters, resulting in about 68,000 deaths, around the world each year. Floods are the most common, and earthquakes cause the most deaths. A United Nations study found that disasters occur three times more often today than in the 1970s and 1980s.

These disasters can devastate any community, but they are especially serious for farmers. Agriculture bears 63% of the impact of natural disasters worldwide. Tourism and commerce are also affected. Droughts, floods, and severe storms can destroy homes and sources of income. In addition to natural disasters, manmade humanitarian crises cause even more devastation. For example, within two months of Russia's invasion, nearly 5 million people fled from Ukraine.

Why should businesses respond to disasters?

Business decision-makers might feel a sense of moral responsibility to use their resources to help others. Regardless of their feelings, corporate philanthropy is good for business. Today's customers care about how companies behave and let this influence their buying decisions. Consumers want to support businesses that follow socially conscious practices, with 77% feeling motivated to buy from companies that believe in making the world a better place.

Social impact is important to investors as well. A growing number of investors are looking for ESG companies to support. These are businesses that prioritize environmental, social, and governance practices in addition to profit. With millennial investors, corporate social responsibility practices are a significant factor for 41%, compared to 16% of baby boomers. Since this is a bigger priority for younger investors, corporate social responsibility will only become more important over time. Companies should look at ESG software to help them report on these factors.

Cause-related marketing can be a good way to associate your company with social impact and responsibility. Cause marketing campaigns are used to highlight a company's efforts related to a social issue. They might use impact report data to share success stories and leverage social media to increase interest. For example, Monterey Bay Aquarium in California used YouTube videos of its animals to promote its "Act For the Ocean" campaign, which aimed to educate the public about the impact of climate change on aquatic life.

How can businesses respond to disasters?

There are many corporate social responsibility strategies that work for different types of businesses. The best way to respond will depend on your company's capabilities and what the communities affected by a specific disaster need. Communities might need food and water, medical supplies, temporary housing, or assistance with home repairs, depending on the crisis. Since major disasters tend to dominate the news, responding effectively can bring positive attention to your business.

Give money

With most disasters, the best way to help is to donate money so that experts on the ground can use that funding as they need it. The simplest way for companies to do this is to start a fundraising campaign and match the donations made by the public. Companies might also choose to donate their profits or a percentage for a set amount of time. Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company donated 100% of its sales for a two-day period to a nonprofit that is providing food and water to Ukrainian refugees.

When your own employees are affected by a crisis, setting up an employee emergency fund can help. Assistance from your company can help employees avoid the need to crowdfund on their own or search for other resource providers. Access to this emergency money lets your employees pay for what they need, which will help them get through the disaster.

Your company might also need to provide other support. For example, the website building company Wix has about 950 employees in Ukraine. The company helped these employees book travel and temporary housing to evacuate the country and is also providing food, cash, and other necessary items.

Give talent

Your business might also be looking for employee engagement ideas to get your team involved in your social impact efforts. If your employees have the expertise needed in a crisis, supporting them as they volunteer their time can be a great way to show good corporate citizenship. This could mean providing employees with virtual volunteering opportunities, like working on a social media campaign to raise awareness of how to help with a disaster. Online volunteers can collect and organize data, coordinate talent on the ground, and document situations. Many businesses will have employees with these skills, so volunteering as a team can be a helpful contribution.

Companies can also offer paid time off for in-person volunteering. This is especially relevant when a disaster hits close to home. Employees are more likely to want to help their local community. If they have specialized skills, traveling to volunteer at a nonprofit's headquarters might be worthwhile. Employee rewards and recognition programs are a great way to acknowledge contributions of service. Extra paid time off will ensure your employees feel fulfilled and supported by your company.

Give product

If your company makes products that would be helpful in the crisis, like food or medical supplies, it might make sense to donate products directly. For example, Airbnb is providing temporary housing for 100,000 refugees in countries surrounding Ukraine. A hotel near a local natural disaster could make a similar contribution.


A charitable auction is another good corporate giving option. Not all businesses have products or services that would be helpful in a crisis. If this is the case, auctioning off a unique or limited edition item and donating the proceeds can make a difference for an important cause. Depending on your product and customer base, an auction might be a more appropriate method of soliciting donations.

Responding to disasters and having good corporate social responsibility practices are essential for today's businesses. However, choosing the right actions and implementing them can be complicated. We help both corporations and nonprofits meet their social impact goals. Contact us to discuss how we can help your business appeal to socially-conscious customers and make the world a better place.